Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Having Faith in Happy Hour Theology on Tap Fosters Relationship between Young Adults and Catholicism

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Having Faith in Happy Hour Theology on Tap Fosters Relationship between Young Adults and Catholicism

Article excerpt

Nearly 50 years ago, when Debra Classen was just 21, her mother left a San Francisco restaurant at which they had dined to retrieve their car.

She never returned. Later the 42-year old mother was found raped and murdered.

Mrs. Classen recalled being "devastated and filled with hatred," then spending the next years exploring different faiths for direction "because nothing made sense" after her mother's murder.

She discussed her path to Catholicism in "Explosions of Grace and Mercy: A Conversion" on Aug. 12 before 85 people, mostly in their 20s and 30s, who gather monthly for what Mrs. Claussen described as "communal nourishment of the Catholic faith via a zesty blend of camaraderie topped with a dash of spirits.''

Called Theology on Tap, the May through September get-togethers are sponsored by the Oakland Young Adult Ministry of St. Paul Cathedral. The two-hour sessions are held at McFadden's saloon, 211 North Shore Drive on the North Shore, and feature fellowship, a talk - and, yes, a happy hour.

The Tap series, now nationwide and in six countries, was started in 1981 in Arlington Heights, Ill., by two priests in answer to a recent college graduate's plea for finding direction in life.

"It's for people still trying to figure things out," said Megan McCabe, 32, of Friendship.

Mrs. Classen, who is executive director of The Mute Swan, a nonprofit ministry based in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, said that after years of searching for answers she stepped into a Roman Catholic Church for the first time and studied a crucifix above the altar.

"Jesus died for us, and that struck me,'' she said. "Violence always begets violence in history, except for the Crucifixion, where violence was met with love and destroyed sin, darkness and hate.''

She said she has long forgiven her mother's still unknown killer.

Chris McMullen, 28, said Mrs. Classen's message is timeless and especially welcome in light of the recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

"Violence normally tears things down, but the violent act of the Crucifixion begat love and kindness and forgiveness. It turned violence on its head," he said.

The Carnegie man was raised in Michigan, where he attended weekly Mass the whole way through college, then moved to Pittsburgh for work. He began attending ministry events after learning of the group while at Mass at St. Paul Cathedral.

The recent child sexual abuse cases involving Catholic priests, and their mishandling by Church authorities, have not lessened his faith, he said.

"The Church is where the truth is at. Some have done terrible things, but we are taught to forgive. I expect to be forgiven through the sacrament of confession, which works for everyone," he said.

Ms. McCabe grew up Catholic and attended Franciscan University of Steubenville, majoring in business management.

"Going there really solidified my faith," she said of the private Catholic university.

After relocating to Pittsburgh she '"stumbled'' upon the Oakland ministry where she found "like-minded people who help me grow in my faith."

The ministry began in November 2013 when Father Kris Stubna, rector of St. Paul, wanted to start a young adult group as a means to draw young people back to the Church.

Monthly events include Lectio Divina (Latin for divine reading), the traditional practice of reading and praying over Scripture, held at the St. …

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